The Third Pedal

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mom and I caught a flight from Queenstown to Nelson to save on travel time. We hired another rental car, and since we were on a bit of a time crunch, I immediately jumped in the driver’s seat to take off for the city centre before driving to the secluded Hopewell in the Marlborough Sounds. I adjusted the seat. That’s not right. Why is there a third pedal down there? Look at the gear shifter. That’s not right. Why are there numbers on the handle? Sheer panic. “Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!!” “What?!” “They gave us a manual!” We are so stranded at this airport, I thought to myself. “Don’t worry. I know how to drive a stick shift.” We are so stranded at this airport.

Even though we were in a Ford Focus, one of the most American cars in the world, there was nothing American about this model. The driver’s seat was on the right, and it was not an automatic. I knew how ridiculously windy the drive ahead of us was going to be, but I kept my mouth shut and didn’t say a word. I felt really bad Mom had to drive, but there wasn’t a thing I could do to help her. Almost 30 minutes into the drive to the Kenepuru Sound, she was getting really over it, but at that point, it was just funny. And I mean side-splitting funny.

We approached road construction, where we had to briefly stop. When the dude man signaled for us to green light go, Mom stalled out. I have no doubt this Kiwi traffic director wasn’t impressed with our automatic accustomed American style of driving, and the look on his face mixed with Mom’s uneasiness sent me into absolute hysterics. As we touch and go made our way through the construction, I realized we over shot our turn off for Te Mahia. Mom did whatever she did to have our car roll backwards, not reverse drive, but proper roll backwards, and even though we could no longer see said dude man, I was confident he was thinking something about us as the fits of laughter coming from our tiny little vehicle only got louder.

We inched our way down another steep road, and I accidentally directed her the wrong way again. I don’t think Mom was very amused, and right when a group of four started walking in our direction, she stalled out for the second time. Busted again! This sent us over the edge, and I was laughing so uncontrollably at this point I was on the verge of serious stomach aches. Tears were streaming down my face and were now clouding up my sunglasses. Once we finally found the wharf where the water taxi was picking us up for Hopewell, we were so grateful we had a ride to save us from another hour and a half drive. Hopewell was nothing short of pure New Zealand magic, and the warm welcomes we received from the owners made our complicated journey completely worth it. Here we are enjoying mussel night. The green lipped mussels here are massive, and easily four times the size of the mussels at home.

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